The wearing of face coverings has been recommended by the Government for secondary school teachers and students in situations where a physical distance of two metres cannot be maintained when they return to schools in a few weeks’ time.
The updated recommendations were published by the Department of Education this evening following engagement with teachers, principals and other key education stakeholders.
Teachers union have welcomed the move, saying that the priority must be to keep schools open when the new school year commences.
“Schools are working hard to implement the necessary safety arrangements in time for re-opening. Keeping schools open must be the priority, and this means minimising the risk of transmission within classrooms and other learning environments,” said ASTI General Secretary Kieran Christie.
Following representations by the ASTI, the Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, announced the adoption of new advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) regarding the use of face coverings within schools.
Interim HPSC advice on the re-opening of schools issued earlier this summer did not recommend the use of face coverings by teachers and students.
The ASTI wrote to the Minister for Education last week seeking a review of the interim advice ahead of schools re-opening in late August. It pointed to recent government policy decisions on the use of face masks on public transport and in other enclosed spaces, and the delay of Phase 4 of the government’s re-opening of the country.
At the request of the Minister, the HPSC has reviewed and updated its advice and has recommended to the Minister the implementation of face coverings for both teachers and students in second-level schools.
In its statement, the Department of Education said that schools have been provided with a Covid-19 specific capitation grant to support greater cleaning regimes in schools.